Metro pitches new program to confront homelessness

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 4:46pm
 Southwest Airlines was the first company to sponsor a refurbished meter. 

Nashvillians can help serve the city’s rising homeless population by dropping spare change or dollar bills into refurbished parking meters under a new program Mayor Karl Dean rolled out Tuesday.

With the so-called Adopt-A-Meter campaign — modeled after a successful initiative in Denver, Colo. — the hope is to attract private businesses to sponsor meters that would be branded with their company logos, decorated with public art and labeled as special “donation meters.”

Money collected from the machines, which would be placed throughout downtown, are to be designated specifically for homeless services, a distribution process supervised by the Metro Homelessness Commission in conjunction with Metro Public Works. The first company that sponsored a meter is Southwest Airlines, with Piedmont Natural Gas Company following suit.

Most projections, depending on the night, register Nashville’s homeless population to be somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people, a figure that’s grown in short time, perhaps even doubling from five years ago.

“Homelessness is not a government issue. It’s not a nonprofit issue. It’s a community issue,” Dean told a crowd at a downtown luncheon where he announced the new program. “So let’s use pocket change to change the lives of homeless individuals and families in our city.”

By the mayor’s account, the program launched in 2007 in Denver has flourished, underscored by the 86 meters that now dot that city’s urban core and the more than $100,000 in donations they bring in annually. Dean said the Adopt-A-Meter campaign there has also helped reduce panhandling.

“I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of participation, and that we’ll bring in a lot of income,” Dean said. “I don’t want to give out numbers, but I think it’s a very compelling program. It’s an opportunity for our very generous corporate citizens to get involved in an effort to help out the homeless.”

Metro Councilman Erik Cole, who chairs the homeless commission, said dollars collected from Nashville’s Adopt-A-Meter program would more than likely help the commission fund nonprofits to hire outreach workers to work one-on-one with the downtown homeless population.

“The idea is, right now police workers are our social workers,” Cole said. “We have very few outreach workers in the city. So we want to use these funds and this program to hire individuals to interact with people on the street.”

Besides its Adopt-A-Meter program, Denver is frequently cited by civic activists for its progressive approaches to homelessness, programs that includes Denver’s “housing first” initiative, as well as plans that provide health services.

“In many ways, they took the lead,” said former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, a longtime advocate for homeless outreach and current CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Public Benefit Foundation. “A lot of their initiatives are out of the box, so to speak, and they’re working.”

Gentry said Metro’s next step should be to “get the homeless off the street” by improving housing access, something he believes Metro is uniquely positioned to carry out.

“We have an opportunity to do what cities like Denver don’t have an opportunity to do,” Gentry said. “Because we’re a metropolitan city, and we’re not dealing with different municipalities and other governments within our boundaries, we’re able to come together in a collaborative way a lot easier than cities like Atlanta and Denver.”  

4 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 1/27/10 at 7:10

I like the homeless selling papers idea. I just wish someone somewhere would have explained it earlier. When I see a homeless person trying to sell a paper, I'm thinking it's a crack ho with blank notebook paper, so I passed by all the ones I saw (a lot), initially.

Since I finally saw an article explaining what it was about and that their papers were legit, I haven't seen anyone selling them. I would buy one now if I saw another homeless person selling them.

But is this adopt-a-meter thing really a good idea when they're already having to expand meter hours to Saturday and considering privatizing the meters because they're losing so much money? This honestly sounds like a stupid idea.

By: HelpThem on 1/28/10 at 1:49

If this program is set up like the one in Denver, the meters aren't connected to a specific parking place. They're just placed randomly around town in areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic, but they stand out because they're not located by parking spaces. No revenue is lost by the city, and individuals aren't forced to donate money because of the parking spot they select. It's a voluntary donation. It makes giving money really easy.

By: yucchhii on 8/23/10 at 1:50

To Wicked Tribe: First to let you know, the homeless paper known as "The Contributer is legit. There is REAL stories BY REAL homeless people. There is truth there! However, there is also a "LACK" of truth as well. There has been attempts at getting truthful stories regarding the Nashville Rescue Mission. The homeless shelter that "CLAIMS" to be Christian and purposely misleads the public with it's "MISLEADING" commercials on channel 5. It tries to tell people that for a small contribution, you can be helping a homeless person! THAT IS BS! The person who runs the nashville rescue mission makes almost $90,000 a year! For a HOMELESS shelter? C'mon! $90,000 a year? THAT IS WHAT YOUR MONEY IS DOING, PAYING THIS GUY!! PLUS the mission gets approximately $10 million to $11 million dollars donations a year. IF you were to go into the mission, posing as a homeless person and see for yourself the conditions of which homeless have to deal with, you'd wonder, "SO WHAT ARE THEY DOING WITH THE MONEY?" The Contributor won't print those stories! Why? I don't know! All I can assume is that they must be in on it as well as channel 5 must be in on it too, because when you try to get them to do a story on the mission, they won't do it. The health department must be in on it too, because TWO attempts that I know of were made to get them to inspect the mission and NOTHING had been done! SO that tells me ONE THING...CORRUPTION!! The homeless are the victims!!!!

By: yucchhii on 8/23/10 at 1:55

The homelessness commision had been given a BIG number of millions of dollars by the federal government that is supposed to be spent ON HOMELESS! They have a ten year plan to "ELIMINATE" homelessness! It's been "FIVE" (5) years into this plan and VERY EXTREMELY LITTLE HAS BEEN DONE!! What the commision is trying to do is to hold out for the ten years to end and they will put that money into a general fund and will allow them to spend the money on OTHER things OTHER THAN HOMELESSNESS!!! IF I'm wrong, "PROVE" ME WRONG!!!!